chinese flagDuring the Cold War, the struggle between the US and Russia after WW II, the two superpowers showered money and attention on Africa as they competed for the allegiance of its many newly independent nations. Now Russia is a shadow of what it once was, but China has emerged as a superpower with great economic potential. Today China is actively competing with the US and other Western powers for the allegiance and resources of Africa.

 Trade between Africa and China, currently about $50 billion, is doubling each year. 700 Chinese companies are now active in Africa. A third of China’s oil comes from Africa, and without it China could not sustain its tremendous growth. But how is Africa making out in the deal? It is said that China enables African dictators to remain in power, fails to provide technical training, gives back little in economic aid, and many of the herbal remedies China is exporting to the continent are worthless.

 China says that it has a policy of “non-intervention” and doesn’t look at the human rights records of those it deals with. Though Western countries do likewise this does not make it right. China , however, also insists that if it had listened to the West’s human rights concerns in governing its own people, it would not have been able to lift 400 million Chinese out of poverty in recent decades.

As for the lag in technical training and the granting of aid, China complains that it is new to the game of overseas trade and development and that it is doing its best in these areas. As for the quality of exported Chinese herbal remedies, note that the world of medicine is going through a transitional period in which Western medicine and traditional African, Asian and Native American remedies are being compared, contrasted and re-evaluated with an eye to forming new, more effective combinations. In the past competition between the US and Russia reaped dividends on the continent, only time will tell if the rivalry today between China and the West for African influence will eventually have the same effect. 

( by Dr. Arthur Lewin from his book Africa Is Not A Country: It’s A Continent )